An article by Dr. Brittany Gilmer and Caroline Comerford titled “Promoting pirate prisons: exploring the intersections of narratives, media, and criminal justice reform in East Africa” appears in the October issue of Crime, Law and Social Change.
The abstract is below. The full article is viewable online.
In March of 2011, several news media outlets published articles announcing the opening of a “pirate prison” in the northwest region of Somalia. Over the next five years, news articles about East African prisons holding piracy prisoners en masse were among the few ways in which the public came to know pirate prisons—what they look like, who they punish, and how they punish. Our analysis of the text and imagery in news articles about these prisons reveals that pirate prison narratives reflects the unique political, social, and economic issues of each location. The geographically-specific narratives are created, promoted, and in some cases silenced by different actors and entities to shape public perception of pirate prisons and motivate funding decisions. This case study aims to theorize what these pirate prison narratives tells us more broadly about the complexities underlying the promotion of criminal justice reforms in the media and the political economy of punishment in East Africa. We contend that the production and maintenance of particular pirate prison narratives helps various actors and agencies maximize benefits tied to a broader penal market where piracy prisoners are detained and transferred in exchange for development aid.